acatwhowrites: (C.A.P♡relaxed)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2015-02-04 11:31 am

In the Summertime

title: In the Summertime
players: Huang Zitao/Tao, Kim Jongin/Kai
word count: 3,400
rating: G
summary: Climbing trees, holding hands, and making friends.

a.n.: Written for rarepairexo. (Original post here.)





When he was a puppy, Jongin’s family moved to a new neighbourhood. It was nice, he thought. The houses were spacious enough for his family of five, and there were big yards with large trees. There was even a park with a pond nearby, just a couple blocks from his new house.

On his first day of school, he didn’t say anything. He wanted to go home, back to his old school with his old friends. He didn’t want to make new ones; he liked the ones he had.

So he sat by himself, played by himself, and ignored the other kids who tried to get him to sit with them and play with them. The boys thought he was dumb. The girls thought he was cute but weird.

The yips and growls and laughs of his classmates tempted him like a plate of cake, warm fingers running down his back and patting his shoulder, saying It’s okay, but Jongin flipped the page of his book and steadfastly turned his back on everything.

His parents told him that morning that they wouldn’t have time to pick him up after school, but it was a short walk, and he was a big boy! He could navigate the few blocks by himself, easy.

“You’re walking by yourself, Jongin?” His teacher stood at the front steps of the school, between Jongin and his walk home, a bit of worry in her smile.

“Yeah. I’ll be okay!” Maybe if he talked fast enough, she’d think he was in a hurry and let him go. “See you tomorrow.”

“Hey, wait!” He looked over his shoulder, ears piqued. She waved. “Be safe.”

“I will. Bye bye!” Jongin offered a little smile and bounded down the steps to the concrete sidewalk. Other kids latched onto their parents’ hands, chattering a mile a minute about their day or running around to get in those last few minutes of play before going home.

A tug of loneliness played on the edges of his heart, but Jongin knew he’d be okay. He just had to focus on going home. A right immediately out of school, two blocks straight, a left at the corner with the flower shop, and three blocks straight from there, and he would be in his neighbourhood.

He made it a block when an enraged shriek rattled his eardrums, and he whimpered a little.

A kitten raced past him, a bigger puppy a couple paces behind. Jongin nearly fell on his butt, but his arms windmilled to keep him from falling into the gutter. He watched the race with big eyes, and he didn’t realise his own legs were joining the chase until he shouted, “Stop!”

Passed the corner with the flower shop, passed the strip of restaurants and cafes, the park loomed before the trio. Every once in a while, the kitten looked over his shoulder and hissed something Jongin couldn’t understand, but it seemed to egg the other puppy on.

The kitten scaled the first tree he came to, sitting on a high tree while the puppy circled beneath him, barking and jumping but not attempting to climb, himself.

Jongin panted, hands on his knees, and flinched when the kitten’s bookbag dropped onto the other puppy’s head.

The boy stopped his circling and clutched his head with a pained whine, crouching to the grass with his tail between his legs.

“Hey,” Jongin crouched beside him. Hopefully, he wouldn’t turn and decide to chase Jongin, but they were both out of breath. “Are you okay?”

“Nooooo,” the boy whimpered. He looked at his hands with wet eyes. “I think that stupid cat broke my head. I must be bleeding.” Big brown eyes looked to Jongin. “Am I gonna die?” His curly tail sat still with only the barest quiver of fear.

Jongin sat on his heels and gently removed the puppy’s hands, bracing himself for a bloodied mess of brains and hair, but there was nothing but a mess of silky hair and pointed ears. He touched the crown and recoiled when the boy hissed through his teeth. “That hurts!”

“You’re not bleeding. Maybe your mom can fix it.” Jongin’s mom could fix anything, but he wasn’t about to say that, because he didn’t want to bring anyone home and make them think they were friends.

“I hope that cat stays up there forever.” Shooting a glare up into the leaves, the boy gingerly got to his feet with a final sniffle and rubbed his nose with his sleeve. He turned back to Jongin halfway to the sidewalk. “I’m Baekhyun, by the way.”

“Jongin.”

“You go to school here?”

“The park?”

No,” Baekhyun giggled. “Lee Soo Man Elementary.” At Jongin’s flustered nod, Baekhyun beamed and waved. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then! Be bye!” He was gone before Jongin could try settling him straight. He couldn’t have friends here; he had friends back home, so he couldn’t possibly make any more.

Baekhyun had left the backpack dropped from the tree on the grass. Some pencils and a book fell out, and Jongin reached to pick them up when the leaves hissed at him. “Leave it!”

Squinting against the sun, Jongin saw the boy Baekhyun had chased on a tree branch, feet motionless but bottle-brush tail curling left, then right with noticeable agitation.

“You gonna come down?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t feel like it.” Why was it, Jongin wondered, that cats were so snooty? He’d been introduced to a pale catboy by his teacher that morning, prompting them to play together, but the kitten merely frowned and wouldn’t even look at Jongin.

“Is it because Baekhyun chased you? He went home.” Jongin pushed the backpack's contents back inside and buttoned it closed.

The sun hung lower in the sky. If it touched the ground, and Jongin wasn’t home, he’d be in trouble.

“Don’t you have to go home?”

“Yeah. Don’t you?”

The kitten fidgeted, tail twitching. “Soon … .”

It couldn’t be all that comfortable in the tree. During lunch, clouds had crept across the sky and sprinkled over the city. The grass at the base of the tree was spongy.

Jongin frowned at the boy. From his own limited experience, climbing was easy. His dad had to use a ladder to get him down, though.

“Are you stuck?”

No!” Sharp eyes narrowed at him. Jongin’s tail tucked between his thighs a little. “I’ll come down when I feel like it. Go home.”

“You’re up really high, though.” At that, the boy looked up and around, fingers digging into the branch he sat on.

Jongin set his backpack beside the catboy’s and faced the trunk of the tree. Branches stuck out pretty low and all over, so it was a matter of navigating the tangles. He jumped a bit and hauled himself into a nearby branch with a little grunt.

“Wha-What are you doing?”

“I’m gonna … help you … down …” Jongin panted as he judged branches and limbs.

“I’m fine! Just go home.” The boy’s ears sat flat to his hair, indiscernible in the inky black. He stared wide-eyed at Jongin, who clung to the thick tree trunk and stretched out his arm.

“Gimme your hand.”

“I said I’d come down on my own … .” He scooted along the limb, keeping his eyes on Jongin’s, until he could reach for Jongin’s hand.

“Just a bit further … .” Their fingertips brushed. Jongin leaned a bit further, and their palms slid together. Rough fingers closed over his wrist, and Jongin waited for the catboy to scoot more along the branch and get his feet on the branch with Jongin.

The catboy took the lead going down, pointing out Jongin should put his feet and not letting go of his hand even as his foot slipped and they fell to the grass.

The catboy was over Jongin in an instance, almond eyes wide. “Are you okay? I told you I was fine. Why’d you have to come up? Dogs don’t belong in trees.”

Jongin sat up and cautiously moved his tail, biting his lip to keep the pained tears from dropping down his cheeks. Nothing hurt too bad, but his heart rammed against his ribcage as he looked up to see just how high they had actually been.

“I didn’t want to leave you.” He didn’t know why. “Baekhyun was being a bit mean, but I don’t think he meant it.”

“He chases me every day … You’re bleeding!”

“Huh?” There went the tears. Blood and mud mingled with bits of bark on Jongin’s knees and above his elbow. He sniffled and rubbed his palms over his knees, smearing the blood, not quite able to stop the hot tears from dripping off his cheeks and chin to his lap.

The catboy got to his feet and grabbed both their backpacks, one over either shoulder, and took one of Jongin’s grimy hands. “Let’s go home. My mom fixes everything.”

Jongin sniffled and choked on the lump in his throat. Getting up was okay, but walking aggravated his knees; he still tried to cry as quietly as possible. If he was big enough to walk home alone, then he was big enough to not cry over a scraped knee or two.

But with the kitten’s hand in his own, looking back every few steps and saying “We’re almost there!” and “My mom’s really nice, so don’t worry,” Jongin felt that maybe he wasn’t big enough. Maybe he did need a friend.

They walked a couple blocks, and the boy pointed to an apartment building. “We’re on the third floor, but we’ll take the elevator.” The ride up was silent. They didn’t let go of one another.

The woman who greeted them inside an apartment in the middle of the hall quickly pulled Jongin into the bathroom and set him on the edge of the bathtub. “What happened to you?”

“Fell out of a tree,” Jongin mumbled miserably. The woman had a distinct mother sort of feel to her that drew out fresh tears.

She shushed him and rubbed his wet cheeks with her thumbs. “We’ll get you cleaned up and fed, alright? What’s your name?”

“Kim Jongin.”

“I’m Mrs Huang.” She reached into the cabinet beneath the sink for peroxide and bandages, tearing off a couple sheets of toilet paper to catch the runoff as the peroxide poured and fizzed over Jongin’s wounds. “I’ll call your mom once I’m done, okay?”

The kitten hovered just outside the door, peering in anxiously. He jumped when his mom called him. “Zitao, baby. Set the table for me and bring me the phone.”

Jongin only saw the tip of a raised tail and stared again at his knees, now covered in cartoon-print bandages. The boy, Zitao, returned with a handset and left again. They heard cabinets closing and a clatter of bowls and chopsticks.

“Your number, Jongin?” He recited it and picked at the bandage on his arm. Mrs Huang swatted at his hand and stood, shooing him out of the bathroom.

Zitao met him in the kitchen and pulled him onto a chair at the small kitchen table against the far wall. “How’re your knees?”

Jongin swung his legs a little and smiled. “Pretty good.”

“See? I told you my mom would fix it.”

Mrs Huang replaced the handset. “Mrs Kim will be by in an hour to pick up Jongin. In the meantime,” she removed lids from two pots and carried the food to the table, “let’s eat. I hope you’re not a picky eater, Jongin.”

“Nuh-uh.” A little drool might have snuck out of the corner of his mouth at the delicious smell. His tail wagged, all pain forgotten.

He and Zitao played until Jongin’s mom arrived. She wrapped him in a big hug and did a quick scan of his injuries, talking a mile a minute even as Mrs Huang assured her he was alright. She took his hand, bowed her thanks, and they left.

Zitao stood in the doorway, ears perked forward and tail high, waving until Jongin and his mom stepped into the elevator.





What was so great about this tree? Jongin stared up into its limbs, remembering the pointed kitten who sat among its leaves every day, whether chased or not.

It'd been years since he climbed. The last time he climbed a tree, he got stuck, fell, and scraped himself so bad he swore to not leave the ground again.

But this was important. Every day after school, Jongin met the kitten at the same tree, and he never said why he liked it so much--or if he even liked it at all. The day he and his family moved again, Jongin sat under the tree and talked to the catboy in the leaves until his mom called from the car outside the park.

Curiosity drove Jongin to approach the trunk and hoist himself onto a branch. He climbed higher and higher, testing branches before putting his weight on them and gingerly avoiding any spiny-looking sections of bark.

He was so focused on the climb that he missed the scenery entirely. Summer was fading in shades of red and orange. A totally brown leaf shivered by Jongin's face and fell free, spinning in a controlled descent to the drying grass below.

Maybe halfway up, he found a bird's nest. It hadn't been used since spring, but there were still feathers and dried crusts of mud and bird poo holding it all together. His dad always knocked old nests down, but Jongin left it. Maybe the mom and dad birds would come back after winter.

Further up, almost to the top, Jongin sat on a branch to catch his breath and finally looked around him.

He could see most of the town from his vantage point, all the way to the man-made pond in the sister park on the other side of town. Perfectly in the center sat his school. He could see the younger kids still running around the playground and the track team sprinting laps.

“Hey!” A disgruntled someone yelled at him from the ground. Jongin looked down between his dangling feet and immediately felt his stomach swoop.

He was very high.

“You're in my spot!”

Maybe if he lied, the person would go away so he could make his way slowly down without an audience.

“I think I'm stuck.”

Or he could tell the truth and whine a little. Whatever worked.

“Why'd you climb a tree, if you couldn't get back down?”

“I didn't think that far ahead … .” Had it always been so windy up here? Jongin shuddered at the brisk wind biting through his jacket.

Something cracked directly beneath him, and he jumped, immediately assuming he was going to fall. Instead, a familiar face stared up at him with narrowed eyes and a crooked smile.

“Dogs really don't belong in trees.”

“I know … ” Jongin mumbled morosely.

Zitao had gotten bigger, fuller. He climbed higher than Jongin and stretched out on an uneven branch, slender tail curling to and fro below his dangling thighs. “So what're you doing up here?” He asked, quieter, “When did you get back?”

I wanted to know what you're looking at every day. Jongin shrugged. I missed you. “We finished unpacking yesterday.”

“Same house?”

“No, but same neighbourhood.”

They lapsed into silence. Jongin thought the catboy had fallen asleep when he spoke again. “I love this tree. There's one just like it at my grandma's. I'd always climb it to see the whole neighbourhood. My mom convinced my grandpa to cut it down after I fell out of it a few times. I miss it. Being up so high is almost like being in the clouds.”

In Jongin’s opinion, being so high up was suicide, but his mind wasn't clear enough to enjoy the sheer freedom of being in the company of birds, bugs, and fluffy clouds.

And a squirrel, a few branches down. It was so close, innocently carrying some kind of nut and pausing every so often to fluff its tail and sniff the air.

“Squirrel!” Jongin barked, and the rodent raced head-first down the trunk and scurried to a hole in another tree.

Wow.” The cat applauded when he finally pulled his claws from the branch. “Way to play into the stereotype.”

“I can’t help it!”

Zitao rolled his eyes and sat up, swinging his legs. “Want to come over? I’m sure my mom would like to see you.”

“Uh, sure.” Jongin’s ears flattened to his hair as he looked down again.

“You really are stuck, aren’t you?”

His tail tucked to his thigh. “Maybe a little.”

Zitao stepped to a branch closer to the one Jongin clung to and held out his hand. “I’ll help you down.”





Jongin always walked the same way home from school, more roundabout than the route he took in elementary school, and it took him past the big tree Zitao liked to sit in. Even blocks away, he heard deep barks of someone calling to someone else, most likely Zitao, trying to coax them down.

He followed the barking to the very tree he was thinking about and saw his friend Chanyeol on his tip toes, which was strange, because he was petite in any sense, tail wagging a mile a minute and eagerly straining to see up into the tree.

“Hey, Chanyeol.” Jongin trotted up to his friend, dropping his book bag beside Chanyeol's mess. “What's up?”

“Someone's up there. I'm trying to help them down.”

Zitao must love that. “By yelling at them?”

“I don't think they can hear me. They've not said anything … ” He paused, head tilted and ears alert. Jongin cocked his head, too, frowning at the low growl. “That's all they do. What if they're hurt?” Chanyeol looked at him with wide, worried eyes.

Zitao's pissed. “I'm sure they're fine.” Jongin patted his arm. “Why don't you go home? They'll come down when they're ready. You're a big dog; they're probably just nervous.”

“Okay … .” Chanyeol’s whole body sagged. He was never able to hide any of his emotions.

Jongin waited until his friend was out of sight and dropped to the grass, spreading out in a languid stretch with his arms behind his head. He sighed, closing his eyes from the glare of the setting sun.

It wasn't long until he heard brief rustling, some creaking of branches, and a soft fwump nearby. He fought the grin when another body laid out beside him, soft purrs carried with each exhale.

“Sorry about Chanyeol.” He pulled an arm from behind his head and laid it out flat, curling it around his friend's shoulders when he snuggled against him.

Sure you are.” Zitao nuzzled his head under Jongin's chin until he found a comfy spot on his chest. His tail curled and flopped onto the soft grass. “That's why you’re fifteen minutes late and let him chase me up a freakin' oak tree.”

“I said I was sorry! I had to talk to my dance coach.” He grinned at the purrs vibrating against his chest; it was one of the greatest feelings, up there with super soft fleece blankets in winter and cool grass in summertime. Zitao was the comforting, quiet feeling of fall. Although things changed and shrivelled and died, there was still life. It existed a little quieter was all.

He let his arm curl up around Zitao's shoulder to poke the cat's cheek. “You're not really mad, are you?”

“I'm so mad that I'm going to take a nap.” He yawned, fingers digging into Jongin’s shirt. “So you’d better not move.”

“But we’re outside.”

“It's still warm.” He’s warm, because he's laying on Jongin. The grass was beginning to get dry and crispy, and even on the ground, the breeze was on the cooler side of comfortable, but snuggled flush against his friend who simply radiated heat, it was impossible to not feel comfy and lazy.

Jongin yawned. “Just a catnap, okay?”

Zitao hummed, already well on his way to dreamland. Jongin pulled his arm from behind his head to remove the cat’s fingers from his shirt and hold them in his hand, shifting onto his side a little and cuddling close.

END